My daughter is entering her teenage years, full of the typical teenage angst and attitude. Even though the ride is a little bumpy right now, I am confident we will all make it out of her teenage years with our sanity intact. Here are four tips I am finding useful for setting boundaries with my teenager.
1. Parent with integrity. When you threaten to ground your child or take something away, you have to stick to your guns. It’s the same concept with teenagers as small children. When you constantly count to three and threaten to put them in time out but never do, they quickly figure out that you don’t mean what you say and they disregard your warnings. Setting the boundary is only half the battle, following through on the consequence is what really makes it effective.
2. Set boundaries for the good of your child, not because of your emotions. Teenagers have an uncanny ability to push their parents’ buttons, and it’s very easy to discipline and set boundaries as a reaction instead of an intentional discipline. Not only is this a healthy way to parent, gaining control over your own emotions will help in every area of life.
3. Don’t feel guilty for setting boundaries. It is our job as parents to teach and guide our teenagers, and that isn’t possible without setting boundaries and guidelines. Last Christmas we got our daughter a smartphone and data plan. She was elated, but we made it clear that she had a limited plan so she would need to track her usage. We said that if she went over, she would lose the smartphone and have to go back to a regular phone. Within the first month she not only went over, she went way over her data plan. At first I felt guilty about taking the phone away, but then I realized that if I as her parent don’t teach her how to control herself and monitor her phone usage, what will she do as an adult?
4. Don’t listen to criticism. Sometimes when you set boundaries and rules that are more restrictive than what your friends set for their children, you will start attracting criticism. While I think extracurricular activities are important, I don’t want my teenager’s schedule to be jam packed every night. I have heard criticism that I am an inferior parent to someone who has such over-scheduled children they can’t even make it to all of the events. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but that won’t change the fact that my family values time together and believes in having margin in all areas of our lives.
Boundaries are there for your teenager’s protection, not punishment. Some day your child might even thank you!